What birds are living in your backyard?

9 June 2020

A white ring around the eye, a bright yellow patch on the wing, a fine pointed beak, a long dark tail.

A tui in a tree.
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These are some of the traits possessed by our feathery friends, which Wellingtonians could be spotting as part of the New Zealand Garden Bird Survey.

Held annually in winter, Kiwis are encouraged to get involved in the survey that runs between 27 June and 5 July. 

It’s easy and fun. Just select a location – it could be your backyard, or a local park or school – and then look and listen for birds for one hour, record what you see and submit your results online.

Last year more than 4,000 people took part in this nationwide initiative, the country's longest running citizen science project that Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research has led since 2007.

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The NZ Garden Bird Survey helps paint a picture of what’s happening to garden bird populations across the country, and gives an early warning system highlighting any health issues, as well as evidence when bird species are thriving.

Zealandia’s Danielle Shanahan, Manager Conservation and Research, says the survey is important as it sheds light on the health of the environment and indicates what kind of birds are living where.

“Zealandia is home to many of our native species. As their population increases they begin to spread beyond the fence, like the kākā have. The survey helps Wellingtonians take notice and record data on where these birds might now be calling home.”

Danielle says the survey also encourages people to take the time to stop and notice the nature around them, which in turn is positive for wellbeing.

“The Zealandia Centre for People and Nature has carried out research which highlights the benefits of being out in nature. People who spend more time in natural environments are less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and stress. Even people who spend half an hour a week in nature are far less likely to suffer from high blood pressure.

“The garden bird survey is a wonderful way for people to get in touch with nature and what lives in their backyard, while contributing to the science that discovers how we can better care for our native species.”

Wellington City Council Urban Ecology Manager Michele Frank says this survey is a useful tool that helps us build an understanding of the changing nature of our city.  

“This survey has picked up a rapid increase in kererū in Wellington. Even though tūī are prolific we are still seeing an increase. Bellbirds are on the increase as well, which is fantastic as they have been slow to establish in Wellington City. 

"All the hard work that councils, partners and the community are doing to restore the native habitats in the city is definitely paying off.”

One of Aotearoa’s Crown Research Institutes, Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research says garden birds are important to study as they act as an environmental indicator for the health of our ecosystems. The NZ Garden Bird Survey helps inform conservation decisions and further research in New Zealand and worldwide.

Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research has lots of fun online resources, like how to identify different species and tally sheets for recording bird sightings, which can help people take part in the survey.

So get your classroom or whānau together, pick a date, grab your binoculars and picnic blanket, and find a comfy spot to sit back and look and listen for birds.